Bronwynne Brent. Undercover 2020 by Paul Kerr
It’s been some time since Bronwynne Brent released Stardust, an album which achieved near universal acclaim. Backed up by some impressive live shows in the UK, Brent came across as an up to date Karen Dalton, a folkie with a jazz inflection to her voice, and on Undercover, she travels a little further along this route.
Undercover is not as beguiling as its predecessor, it’s a more straightforward album in style and there seems to be less despair as Brent’s vocals dance happily over some pretty upbeat songs. Dig a little deeper however and she’s still singing of broken hearts. That said, the songs are enlivened with an inventive array of keyboards, ranging from the 1960’s Farfisa like parps on the title song to the whirling organ on Someone That I Loved. The band altogether are excellent. They create a fine and funky blend of folk and soul on Walking Relapse, which comes across as if Pentangle were backed up by Billy Preston and a horn section, and then sailing into neon slicked honky tonk groovyness on Brent’s cover of Chuck Willis’ Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You with Brent digging into Peggy Lee territory. Lost In The Moonlight meanwhile is a slinky late night torch song.
Brent’s folkier side predominates on several songs. Raincoat is the first of these and, as with some songs on her last album, it’s reminiscent of Melanie’s deeper thoughts while Brent uses it as a vehicle for some inventive vocal interludes. Empty Pot Of Gold, emboldened with a tremendously sympathetic band and string arrangement is hauntingly beautiful and River Lullaby, again with a magnificent backing, is simply gorgeous.